Sunday Times 5090 by Dean Mayer – I’ll be right here

12:54. I thought this was excellent even by Dean’s exalted standards. It was mostly not too difficult but I got quite stuck in the NE corner. Lots of lovely clues and some nicely off-beat references: the ET quote, the 4×4, the drink.

Since it will be Christmas Eve when this goes up, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all bloggers, contributors, lurkers, setters and of course editors here the very best of the festive season, whatever it means to you and however you mark it, or indeed don’t.

Definitions are underlined, anagrams indicated like (TIHS)*, anagram indicators are in italics.

1 Hare in small spicy dish
5 Left out to dry, comes in bloody fast
GO HUNGRY – GO(HUNG)RY. The object(s) being hung here is/are mostly likely laundry.
9 Not smart at feeding commands to dog
DOWN-AT-HEEL – DOWN and HEEL (commands to a dog) containing AT.
10 Hebrew judge fires on French author
11 The last race to run in my 4×4
CHELSEA TRACTOR – COR (my!) containing (THE LAST RACE)*.
13 Fencing shack, Zulu chap breaks neck
CHUTZPAH – (CHAP)* containing (fencing) HUT, Z.
15 No alcoholic drink served over spirit
DAEMON – reversal of NO MEAD.
16 Pair getting aboard yesterday
PRONTO – PR, ONTO (aboard). If someone wants something done immediately they might say they want it ‘yesterday’.
18 Man keeping mum in order
20 Tragic woman, as defined by Webster
DUCHESS OF MALFI – CD. The surface reading makes you think of the dictionary, but actually you want the playwright. I saw a production of this play on a school trip to Stratford in 1989 with Harriet Walter playing the lead. On that trip we also saw Antony Sher in Singer and Charles Dance (who I bumped into coming out of a pub) in Corialanus. Very memorable.
22 Number four iron’s gripped
23 Harrison Ford et al worked here
OVAL OFFICE – great clue! You can take your pick here between William Henry (9) and Benjamin (23) Harrison, but there’s only been one Ford (38).
25 Height of intelligence, in terms of 1984
NEWSPEAK – the PEAK of NEWS. Referring to the George Orwell novel of course.
26 Some mackerel is hard to enjoy
RELISH – contained in ‘mackerel is hard’. I rarely find mackerel hard to enjoy but can certainly imagine circumstances in which it would happen.
2 Clergy making fortune in church
CLOTH – C(LOT)H. Fortune as in fate.
3 Lock phone then check
4 Legendary being, one not seen so far
5 Seal hunter’s boat, after high water, set off
6 One order at the bar
HALF-AND-HALF – half + half = 1. HALF-AND-HALF has many meanings, in the UK it’s usually a mixture of mild ale and bitter. In North America it’s a mixture of cream and milk for using in coffee.
7 Couple getting close before the late shift
NIGHTIE – NIGH, TIE (couple).
8 Old copper’s in to bring up files for Flying Squad?
12 1982 film quote representing theme on hope
14 Whence memory of tough crusade
HARD DRIVE – HARD (tough), DRIVE (crusade).
17 Heart transplant for uncle and me?
NUCLEUS – (UNCLE)*, US (me, as in ‘give us a hand’).
19 Lively song on piano almost complete
21 Concentrate on the house and use less energy
FOCUS – FOC (free of charge), USe.
24 Paddle over a river
OAR – O, A, R.

17 comments on “Sunday Times 5090 by Dean Mayer – I’ll be right here”

  1. Got stuck on the duchess as last one in. With the checkers, would she be the Duchess of Jaffa, Haifa or Malfi? The last one sounded most likely, and so it proved.
    I liked the presidential clue at 23a, but strictly speaking didn’t it require a comma between Harrison and Ford? Although this would have spoilt a wonderful Dean clue.
    Thanks to our blogger for the parsing of Red Arrows, which went over my head.

    1. Jackkt’s comment is partly true. Some non-standard/missing punctuation is permitted, but in Times and ST crosswords, this doesn’t include closing gaps between words, in particular sometimes requiring solvers to read “indeed” as “in deed”. That seems to be an isolated oddity in some papers – I think there are some that allow it but don’t use “into”, “inside” or “inmate” in the same way, or extend the trick to words like “understand” or “byway”, as I think some older puzzles might have done, in the days when “punctuation may mislead” was (IIRC) a printed statement with some puzzles.

      1. Thanks, Peter. Yes I knew about closing gaps but hadn’t thought to mention it re punctuation. The Guardian puzzle does it almost daily so it was something I had to get used to when I began solving their puzzle regularly. I think there was one incidence of a closed gap in a Times weekday 15×15 a few months ago which led to some discussion here.

  2. My understanding is that there’s a convention on punctuation in clues that setters are free to insert, omit or adjust it as they wish in order to serve the clue in any way they choose. One of the first pieces of advice I was given in my earliest days as a TfTT contributor was to ignore punctuation completely as it’s often used as a device to mislead the unwary solver.

    I needed 45 minutes to complete this but my copy is almost without workings or other annotations to suggest I had any major problems along the way.

  3. Started online, finished over lunch, consuming a lot of time as well as a sandwich. I never figured out RED ARROWS, but its recent appearance (a NHO at the time) enabled me to biff it. A less recent appearance for another NHO gave me CHELSEA TRACTOR, although I had to look up 4×4 first. DNK ‘neck’, but once I figured out that Z went after HUT and not before, I parsed CHUTZPAH OK. I’ve never read or seen “The Duchess of Malfi”, and probably would have said it was by Marlowe, but 20ac was still a gimme, maybe my first from Dean. Liked GO HUNGRY, YET, HALF-AND-HALF, COD to OVAL OFFICE

  4. 59.35

    Done after midnight and really struggled with a few – couldn’t get beyond RED for GORY, and just couldn’t see the definition for the SHARK (plus forgetting ARK for boat). But absolutely no complaints – it was excellent stuff particularly the OVAL OFFICE.

    May I return the compliments of the season to Keriothe Dean the rest of our setters and bloggers, our editors and all us listeners.

  5. Top half, done, and enjoyed. Ah-ha, I thought, optimism rising. Bottom half, different story. Even with the starter of 5d, and excepting 24d, 22ac, 26ac, just couldn’t make progress from 16ac/12d. NHO 20ac, no idea of the reference. Did come up with 18ac TRAPPIST but beyond “order” couldn’t relate it to the clue. Even 17d: I tried to anagramise uncle/me, so I was on the right track but me was actually us? This one was just too clever for me in all respects. Thanks and well done, all.

  6. remarkably completed this very quickly , my brain was in top cryptic mode
    happy Christmas to all

  7. Magnificent crossword, this one, loved all of it. So concise, so neat, such good surface readings.. look at 9ac for example, or 17dn, the wonderful 23ac, or almost any other clue.

    “As defined by Webster,” it would be “The Dutchesse of Malfy,” according to Wikipedia, but hey, it’s Christmas. And I had only just heard of her, anyway

  8. Because it’s Christmas Eve and I’m therefore terribly busy, I forgot to look at the blog this morning. However, I’m adding my paean to the rest for a top class puzzle with beautiful surfaces, hardly easy, yet all solvable. Stand out was OVAL OFFICE, but GIDE, NIGHTIE and CHELSEA TRACTOR also great. Like some others, I failed to parse RED ARROWS and didn’t know Webster was the author of The Duchess of Malfi, but it went in anyway. Thanks, Dean and Keriothe, and a Happy Christmas to all of you.

  9. Another nice puzzle – I liked the Mashie-Niblick and Oval Office. Nice blog, keriothe, and a very nice year of puzzles, Mr Mayer.

  10. Can anyone help me understand? I printed this puzzle out last week – 5090 dated 17 December – and there doesn’t seem to be one online for Sunday 24 dec. but your commmentary is dated 24 December for 5090?!?!? Thanks for all the comments people, very much appreciated every day and a happy Christmas to you all!

    1. These are prize puzzles so we only publish the blogs after the submission deadline, usually a week later.
      Puzzle 5091 is a special Christmas jumbo which appeared on the website yesterday. It will be blogged next week I think: the deadlines for jumbos are sometimes a bit longer but since it’s not my turn to do the blog I haven’t checked!
      Happy Christmas!

      1. The 5090 I downloaded and printed out clearly states “17 December 5090”. So how is it you are all looking at 5090 dates 24 December? It is the same clues as the one I did before 24 December?!?!?

        1. Who has referred to a puzzle 5090 appearing on 24 December?
          Puzzle 5090 appeared on 17 December. The corresponding blog (this one) appears a week later, 24 December.

  11. Very clever (as expected); I started off really well with SCURRY and YET and DOWN AT HEEL, but slowed to a halt thereafter! The few I did get (or biff) I was happy with, but mostly I was on the wrong track: never saw the movie ET, so was looking for a Latin expression starting with EX, and so on. Had read THE DUCHESS OF MALFI, many moons ago, but had forgotten the tragic part…really liked OVAL OFFICE and CHELSEA TRACTOR (so many of them around here!)

  12. Thanks Dean and keriothe
    Found this pretty tough, taking just inside a couple of hours across four sessions yesterday, after getting off to a quick start with FIVE and OAR. Was quite chuffed to see the E.T. quote quite early on, but it became a pleasant battle of attrition to solve the rest of the puzzle.
    Didn’t know the DUCHESS OF AMALFI and had to slowly piece together CHUTZPAH and then double check what it meant. Have come across the F.O.C. (free of charge) abbreviation a couple of times over the last 2-3 weeks which helped understand FOCUS. Liked the clues for OVAL OFFICE and TRAPPIST (which was the third to last one in). Finished in the NE corner with RED ARROWS (that needed to be googled) and DAEMON (which didn’t).

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